Everyone has an occasional slow day at the office, and that can be a good thing, but when you find yourself bored on a regular basis, it can be a real drag. You start to lose motivation, and the minutes feel like hours. The first step is to ask your boss for additional assignments, but if that doesn’t work, and he or she brushes you off or doesn’t have anything to give you right away, there are other ways to get back in the game and feel productive again.
In a helpful piece for the Daily Muse, Sara McCord offers tips on “What to Do When You Don’t Have Enough to Do.” She’s only got three suggestions, so even if you don’t have this problem, and you’re swamped at work, read on to get her advice.
1. Visit the “Parking Lot” — As McCord puts it, most people have a “parking lot,” or a place in your email or on your desk where you keep a list of “someday projects.” Start by looking there, and if there are no old ideas worth digging out, revisit your notes from old staff meetings and see if there are any to-do items you never did. “By beginning with something that has already been discussed—even peripherally—you know you’re staying within your job description (making it easier to get approval),” McCord writes.
2. Ask Around — While there’s something of a “be careful what you wish for” thing at play here, as you might get stuck with a lot of crummy assignments, McCord suggests asking supervisors and colleagues if they could use a hand on anything. If nothing specific jumps out to them, ask if they see any unmet needs in the company that you might be able to help meet. “This approach will make you seem like a team player and coalition builder,” McCord writes.
3. Take a Meeting — If the first two steps fail, get on your boss’ calendar and schedule a meeting to discuss your lack of work. Be sure to share with your manager all of the ways you’ve tried to find more work; once he or she sees how much time and effort you’ve put in, it should send the message that this is a real problem in need of solving. If you still find yourself sending personal emails and playing solitaire all day, try going to your boss’ boss or even HR. Or put the word out to your network that you’re in the market for new opportunities.